The State of 6m in ZL in July 1997 Click here to go back to the home page
by Bob McQuarrie ZL3TY

Recent postings on this subject have brought to light the worsening situation here in ZL for amateurs wanting access to the 50-51MHz part of the 6m band. Broadcasters are still turning on new transmitters and even those of us left with access to 50MHz are at risk. I have recently won a local battle with one of the networks who were planning the installation of a transmitter in my town, a distance of about 3km from my QTH. Fortunately I was able to convince them to use a different VHF frequency. Chris Gare suggests that we need to be proactive and fight it - like they did in the UK. I wish it was that easy.

In Europe the opening of 6m to amateurs has occurred because broadcasters are abandoning Band 1. Here in ZL they are actively trying to fit more transmitters into Band 1. Believe it or not!! DTH satellite broadcasting and cable are in their infancy with the majority of TV services being from terrestrial transmitters. We hope that the introduction of digital TV in the next decade or so might result in abandonment of Band 1. It seems that tests have proven the error rate to be excessive for acceptable received pictures.

Yes, in the ITU regulations for Region 3 the spectrum 50 to 54MHz is allocated on a PRIMARY basis to amateur radio. The footnotes allow the alternative broadcast use. The New Zealand Administration has been proactive in seeking to eliminate footnotes but, of course, it sees its own footnotes in a different light from others.

The New Zealand (and VK) Administrations are hiding behind paragraph 342 of the ITU Regulations which states, in effect, that an administration can use any frequency for any station, provided only that harmful interference is not caused to a station (in another country) of the service which has been allocated that frequency. We have suggested to our Administration that they are breaching their international treaty obligations because ZL TV transmitters create harmful interference to overseas amateurs legally using frequencies which they have primary rights to. But unless the government of the countries where the harmful interference occurs is willing to protest to the ZL government nothing happens. The country most likely to have a strong case is Australia and they are hardly likely to protest to NZ when they are using the similar footnotes to enable them to permit TV transmitters in the amateur's primary allocation. Maybe some of you out there can persuade you Administrations to protest to the ZL government about the harmful interference the ZL TV causes during F2 openings.

The ZL situation is that broadcasters have been sold what is called "Management Rights" to the 50 - 51MHz chunk of 6m (along with the rest of the spectrum used for TV broadcast). The original proposals from our Administration suggested that amateurs be totally excluded from this part of the spectrum, however after strong representations from NZART this was modified. The management rights effectively hand control of the affected frequencies to the holder of the rights. To get around this legalistic problem the Government issued a licence to itself and has entered into individual contracts with hams to allow us to get access to 50-51MHz. If you are confused by all this, join the club. It is beyond the comprehension of normal sane radio amateurs whose chief concern is to indulge in the relaxing hobby of ham radio. Consequently a lot of people who may otherwise try 6m don't bother.

As for taking legal action, this is precisely what the new de-regulated environment wants. The system as set up allows participants to resolve issues through the courts. The problem is who do we act against, the Broadcasters or the Administration, or both? Both of whom have enormous financial backing to pursue their aims compared to what a few amateurs could find. Frankly, I don't need the hassles. Our association NZART has its own problems with the Administration in several other areas and is very unlikely to put a considerable quantity of members funds at risk to fight for what is a fringe activity. Besides, is it worth taking the Administration to court and risking what is currently a reasonable working relationship.

The situation here in ZL could be worse (slightly), we could be totally banned from operation in the 50-51MHz segment. NZART has a policy of seeking restoration of our primary rights to the full 50-54MHz band and this is raised at every opportunity with the Administration. However until the broadcasters decide to turn off their transmitters we have no chance. What we need to prevent is someone finding an alternative commercial use for our band in the meantime. This should be of immediate concern to all VK amateurs.

So all of you who haven't yet worked ZL, or want to work us again in the future, keep hoping that at least a few of us can maintain the toehold we still have on the band. And spare a thought for the hams who have just been told to cease operating after a lifetime of chasing DX on 6.

73 Bob

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